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Musical Instrument Museum, Part 14

Music of Greece and Cyprus comprises a mosaic of regional styles from the mainland. One example is the early 20th-century rebetika style, which blended Greek and Turkish traditions. Rebeticka songs were a Greek urban-subculture expression of the harsh realities of life, and were accompanied by the plucked bousouki (shown here), baglama (shown below) and guitar.

I found this lute to be, not just a musical instrument, but a true work of art. Just look at the inlaid mother-of-pearl — exquisite!

The baglama is closely related to and derived from similar instruments in Turkey. Curiously, the body is often hollowed out from a single piece of wood (skaftos construction) or else made from a gourd, but there are also baglamas with staved backs (like a barrel). Its small size made it particularly popular with musicians who needed an instrument transportable enough to carry around easily or small enough to shelter under a coat. During parts of the 20th century, players of the bouzouki and baglamas were persecuted by the government, and the instruments were smashed by the police.

This is a bowed fiddle (Byzantine lyra or lira) but again note the fine craftsmanship used in its construction. It is an ancestor of most European bowed instruments, including the violin. In its popular form, the lyra was a pear-shaped instrument with three to five strings, held upright and played by stopping the strings from the side with fingernails.

The musical culture of nearby Albania is divided between the northern, highland region, with its single-melody singing style — and the southern lowlands, where multi-part singing is more characteristic. In the north, epic ballads are accompanied by men playing the bowed, single-stringed lahute (shown here) and women singing and dancing to the rhythms of a frame drum and other percussion.

In the south, singing, reed pipes, drums, bagpipes and long-necked, plucked lutes (shown here) provided dance accompaniment at social gatherings. Turkish influences are evident in urban ensembles. Over the last century, older instruments have been joined by violins, clarinets, accordions and, more recently, electric guitars and synthesizers.

In Macedonia, musical traditions reflect both the pastoral music of its people as well as a history of over 500 years of Turkish rule. Herders played bagpipes (shown here) and flutes to pass the time and calm the sheep. Their music is now also heard at social gatherings, fairs and weddings.

Serbia's complex musical heritage comes from its location, a place where many cultural influences meet. In rural Serbia, solo bagpipes or flutes accompany the fast-paced footwork of kolo dancers — and singers still chant epic tales while playing a fiddle such as the kemene (shown here).

Eastern Serbia's Vlah people accompany their dances with flutes (frula, shown here) and pipes of different sizes and shapes.

The multiple religious and ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina have created a rich musical landscape that varies between urban and rural populations. In urban areas, the 500-year Turkish occupation is reflected in sevdalinke (love songs) that are accompanied by long-necked lutes (shown here). Rural traditions typically included the playing of flutes, horns, reed pipes and drums.

Music from the Adriatic Sea region and the Central European plains influence Croatian music. Along the coast, music often reflects Italian melodies and harmonies, but also employs instruments found nowhere else, such as the duplice, paired rozenice and surla (all shown here).

Found throughout the nation and wherever Croatians live, tamburitza orchestras provide a symbolic connection to the homeland. From the lone samica (shown here), tamburitza bands evolved with instruments of different sizes, each with its own distinctive musical role.

Smaller ensembles accompany lively village songs and dance music — while larger orchestras have been popular in towns and cities since the mid-19th century.

In Slovenia, many songs, musical styles and instruments have outlived the rituals they once accompanied. However, the people have continued to embrace certain traditional instruments, including the small wooden transverse flute called zvegla and the country's unique trstenke panpipes (shown here).

To be continued...

P.S., MIM is currently celebrating its one-year anniversary.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com